(Directed by Boots Riley) (2018)
“Sorry to Bother You.” The lying phrase for the Age, expressed in a myriad settings, via a hundred platforms. Here it is the foot-in-the-door tool for telemarketer Cassius Green (played by Lakeith Stanfield, last seen by TVC as the weirdly gentrified young buck in Get Out), a down-and-out (he can only buy 40 cents’ worth of petrol for his heap of a car) who acquires a selling role and a honky patois to match, refined under the guidance of avuncular co-worker (Danny Glover) who teaches him to tele-market in a “white voice.” Soon that (nasally, slightly peevish) voice has Cash on the fast track to success. But of course, that comes at a price – Cash has to leave behind his striking co-workers and fall-in with a modern-day version of Dr Moreau.
We were hoping, from the hype, to see a good American film about class (there haven’t been many since Five Easy Pieces). Alas, this is nowhere near that, but has some good things in it: we liked the surreal touches, such as Cash physically dropping-in on his telephone victims at inconvenient moments. We liked the overblown contrasts between the ethnic ‘Povos’ and the W.A.S.P. high-flyers. The morally dubious journey from work cubicle to top floor is nicely done (shades of The Apartment) and Armie Hammer is amusing as evil overlord ‘Steve Lift’, head of “WorryFree” corporation, which runs a sort of company store, with a horrific twist.
The problem here is not that the story is overtly political. And some of the performances are good – we particularly liked Stanfield, a sort of yankee Richard Ayoade from “The IT Crowd.” The problem is that the back-half of the movie drags, and is not assisted by a ludicrous conclusion that fails to work (unlike Get Out, where it did). Ideas abound, but many of them are neither fresh nor fully developed. Too much is thrown into the sink, muddying the water.